Categories
Commentary

CALINOFF: NBC Stands for NASCAR’S Best Coverage

NBC has a rich history of broadcasting premier sporting events.

Beginning in the late 1930’s they’ve provided coverage – at one time or another – for every major stick and ball sport, as well as the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

It’s safe to say that if you’re an avid sports fan, the colorful Peacock in the upper right-hand corner of your screen gives you a sense of comfort.

In 1999, they began their foray into NASCAR.

Along with FOX, FX and TNT, they obtained the broadcast rights to the two top National Touring Series in a six-year deal. NBC televised the second half of the season and alternated coverage of the Daytona 500 with FOX. In December 2005, NBC announced that it would not renew its agreement with NASCAR.

Grab that remote and fast-forward.

The network made its return to NASCAR at Daytona’s Coke Zero 400 this July with the promise of bringing fans a new experience – something they’ve been craving for the past several years.

They’ve kept their promise and, in my opinion, have over-delivered.

The key ingredient in their secret sauce: Relevance.

Lead analysts @SteveLetarte and @JeffBurton made seamless transitions from their respective roles as crew chief and driver.

While Burton competed in only four races during 2014 – two for Michael Waltrip Racing and twice for Stewart-Haas – the proclaimed “Mayor” of NASCAR is current. He’s raced successfully against today’s crop of veterans and rising stars.

Burton brings the viewers inside the cockpit and offers them a real perspective of what it’s like behind the wheel. The explanations of a driver changing his line or the components of a good restart are a bonus to the broadcast. His delivery is refreshing.

Steve Letarte is Superman.

He left a championship-caliber pit box, discarded his uniform, put on a suit and flew into the booth like a seasoned broadcaster. His strengths come from applicable experience, being a savvy strategist and paying attention to detail.

During last month’s race at Michigan International Speedway, Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 fell off the jack causing damage that flared-out the side skirt. Letarte caught it and the camera zoomed-in to show it. He explained that while it was accidental – it’s illegal to purposely alter the body – and slowed the pit stop, it would not serve as an aerodynamic advantage. Kenseth, who had scored the pole and led the most laps that day, went on to win the race. That’s just one example but, moreover, proof that relevance matters.

With precise play-by-play from @RickAllenracing, the polished reporting on pit road and engaging pre and post-race shows, NBC is building a new model for the way NASCAR broadcasting should be. They also understand that they have a responsibility to entertain – but it isn’t necessary to do so by telling old tales and performing slapstick comedy.

They’ve done an exceptional job at crafting a broadcast team of legitimate players. They have also made clear that the show isn’t about who’s sitting in a booth high above the grandstands. It’s about those on the ground – the real stars of the sport.

The newcomer, regardless of the realm, is always faced with high expectations and the pressures to perform – it’s an inherent element. There are always bigger shoes to fill.

And now, NBC is wearing them.

 

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

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Categories
News

Greg Ives Named Earnhardt Crew Chief for 2015

By Matt Weaver — Dale Earnhardt Jr. must feel like he has hit the crew chief lottery.

Hendrick Motorsports announced on Wednesday that Greg Ives will take over as crew chief of the No. 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team next season, replacing Steve Letarte who has decided to move on to the television booth with NBC. Ives has been a race-winning crew chief in the Nationwide Series the past two seasons with Regan Smith and Chase Elliott at JR Motorsports.

Earnhardt is the owner of JR Motorsports, a Hendrick Motorsports affiliate program and Ives was also an engineer under Chad Knaus on the No. 48 Sprint Cup team that won five championships with Jimmie Johnson from 2006-2010.

“I know what Greg is all about and really respect him,” Earnhardt said in a news release. “He’s a strong leader with a cool personality, and we’re both competitors who want to win. It was important to find someone who would fit at Hendrick Motorsports and inside our shop, and he will for sure do that. We got the best guy for the job, and I look forward to working with him next year.

“From a JR Motorsports perspective, I’m extremely proud of how this worked out. Since the end of 2012, we’ve focused on JRM and Hendrick Motorsports working together as closely as possible and developing talented people for the next level. This is a perfect example of that happening the way we hoped it would.”

Ives currently leads the Nationwide Series standings with Elliott and has won five races over the past two seasons. He’s considered a disciple of Knaus of sorts and was the number one choice to take over for Letarte according to Hendrick owner Rick Hendrick.

“This is a talented guy who already has a terrific rapport with Dale Jr. and is a fit with the organization,” Hendrick said. “He and Chad had a lot of success together, and all of our crew chiefs think the world of him and what he’s accomplished. Greg’s proven that he can win races, and he has all the tools to do big things.”

For his part, Ives sees the chance to join the most popular team in the sport as a major opportunity.

“This is an incredible opportunity for me and my family,” Ives said. “Dale Jr. and I have a great relationship from being in the same shop at Hendrick Motorsports and my time at JRM. We have a lot left to do this season in the Nationwide Series, but I’m excited about what’s ahead and look forward to sharing some wins with JR Nation in the future.

“I couldn’t ask for a better situation than working with one of the best drivers and teams in racing.”

With the decision, the quest to uncover a crew chief for Earnhardt now shifts to finding one for Chase Elliott, one of the heir-apparents to a Hendrick Motorsports ride by the 2016 season. Ives was an under-speculated option for Earnhardt just because it was believed that he would remain with Elliott for the duration of his development path.